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Education Outside the Box

Jun 3, 2013The Original OCI Kitchen Ninjaby oci-admin1

As someone looking for a culinary school to provide more than just basic food knowledge, I was delighted to hear (from my Admissions officer during my OCI school tour) that OCI had a Chef Instructor from Nepal that specialized in spices, and more importantly to me, came from a lineage of medicinal healers.  I also come from an ancestry of healers.  My great grandmother’s knowledge of the human body and her understanding of natural remedies for pain and illness were, I thought, insurmountable. I couldn’t believe that a culinary school would devote any portion of their curriculum to the medicinal properties of food.  It was game changing for me. Chef Vaidya 1

Chef Bikrim Vaidya is an OCI favorite, and if you’ve been a part of the school in any way, sort of a mascot. During my schooling at OCI, Chef motivated me to understand, appreciate and study the products I was using in my dishes.  His never ending quest for knowledge and his enthusiasm for passing that knowledge to his students is what makes him truly one of a kind.  I continue to see the influence he has on his students, current and graduated.  He is definitely someone that has inspired me throughout my culinary journey. I found it only appropriate to interview Chef Vaidya for my very first blog post. More

Feb 5, 2013Digging In at the Oregon Truffle Festivalby oci-admin1

White Truffles

As a budget-minded culinary student, truffles just don’t typically make it onto my weekly shopping list. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to think of a time I’ve ever cooked with even truffle butter or oil. So when Chef Instructor Maxine Borcherding asked for student volunteers to help at the Oregon Truffle Festival, I jumped on board.

This is why I love volunteering for events through Oregon Culinary Institute. It’s great exposure to ingredients that I might not otherwise work with. Not only that, it’s a fantastic way to assimilate oneself with the Portland culinary scene. You get to work with amazing chefs, make connections, learn new techniques and ideas, and you almost always get fed!

The Oregon Truffle Festival lasts an entire weekend of January, with many events, workshops, lectures, and meals. We were to assist with a cooking class and luncheon out in Monroe, Oregon.  The luncheon was prepared by Chef Dustin Clark of Wildwood Restaurant. He was just hands-down amazing. Chef Clark took the time to show us proper technique, explained the reason for his ingredient choices, encouraged us to taste and dissect his food, and made sure we left well fed. He even offered us his spare truffles to take home. My favorite dish was his Roasted Sunchoke Veloute with White Truffle. He meticulously layered the use of truffle through out his soup, so the aroma was deep and complex.

Chef Instructor Maxine Borcherding and students with Chef Clark of Wildwood

This was my first exposure to a truffle shaver. Since even the smallest morsel of a truffle is something to savor, this device is used to yield paper-thin slices. It looks like a cross between a cheese slicer and a mandolin, with a gage to adjust thickness. I began to think of what else this simple could be used for around my kitchen. Shaved shallots? Garlic? Parmesan? Chocolate?

A Black Truffle Getting a Close Shave

While half of my classmates helped Chef Clark in the kitchen, the rest of us delivered plates of food to a very eager audience of diners. It was such a pleasure to see faces light up when we dropped off a plate of beautifully composed food. As we made the rounds to clear tables in between courses, many of the guests were resistant to give us their dishes. They were determined to scrape every last morsel of truffle goodness off of their plates!

The icing on the cake was getting to meet a test kitchen director of a well-known food magazine. Working in a test kitchen is my dream job, and with the encouragement of Chef Maxine, I mustered up the courage to go and speak with her. After gushing in the director’s general direction for several minutes, she warmly encouraged me to apply for her internship. I wrote to her the next day. Now, just a week later, I’m shopping for plane tickets for my big interview in New York City. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed. Even if nothing comes of my interview, I just can’t believe the exposure and opportunity volunteering has afforded me.

Sarah Ruth Maier is a culinary management student, currently in her second term in the kitchen. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Theater, she took a job at a small family deli to make ends meet. Working with food swiftly became a passion, leading to work as a cheesemonger. She found out about Oregon Culinary Institute online, and made her dream a reality when she began classes in July of 2012. Her interest is in recipe testing, food writing, and catering.

Aug 31, 2012Local, Organic Summer Salsas by OCI Studentsby oci-admin1

There may not be a better way to indulge in the latter summer harvest than tapping the garden to create dishes with Latin flavor.  And so, in preparation for a visit from the good folks at Organic Valley next Thursday to launch their new American Singles cheese, we challenged our students with a competition to create the best salsa using only local and organic ingredients.  Seven students submitted recipes, along with costing for each recipe, and launched into furious production for an hour to produce one quart each of their unique salsas to submit to our vaunted panel of judges:

Chef White
F.A. Director Carlos
Chef Cronwell









The top three salsas, as decided on by our judges, will be featured on Thursday (September 6, 2012) when Organic Valley’s Cheese Singles tour visits Oregon Culinary Institute.  For the event, Chef White’s Food Ethics class will be making cheese quesadillas using Organic Valley’s American cheese singles.

Without further ado, here are the top three salsas and recipes.  Congrats to the winners and everyone who participated, as every submission was very good and worthy of recognition.


Cesar Macias, Culinary Diploma Student

#1 – “Cucumber Tomatillo Salsa” by Cesar Macias 

1 lb. (small) Tomatillos
2 Chile Serranos
1 Cucumber
1/2 Onion
4 Garlic Cloves
1 bunch Cilantro
1 Lime
2 tsp ground Cumin

1. De-seed the cucumber
2. Zest and extract juice from lime
3. Roast tomatillos and chile serranos
4. Set aside diced cucumber
5. Add all ingredients (except cucumber) to blender and mix
6. Add cucumber to final mix for texture
7. Season with Salt and pepper to taste

This is my grandmother’s recipe but I learned it from my mom. Last summer at a BBQ at home in L.A. I decided to add cucumber to see how it would taste, and I’ve been making it this way since. The cucumber adds some freshness to balance out the peppers.” – Cesar Macias

Bryan Hunter, Culinary Management Student

#2 – “Hunter’s Hammerin’ Salsa” by Bryan Hunter

1.5 lbs Tomatoes (Roma or Heirloom)
1 bunch Green Onions
1 Lime
1 Jalapeno pepper
1 Habanero pepper
Salt (pref Kosher) as needed
1 bunch Cilantro
3 cloves Garlic
1 cup Tomato juice

1. Wash produce
2. (With gloves on) de-stem and quarter peppers, place in blender
3. Rough chop green onion, add to blender. Add cup of tomato juice and garlic clove, blitz until uniformly blended
4. Add tomatoes and puree until smooth.

This is a family recipe that I have evolved over the last 15 years.  I make it often as it reminds me of home…good ol’ Arizona.  Love makes this salsa taste right.” – Bryan Hunter

Shannon Martin, Culinary Management Student

#3 – “Roasted ‘Bodacious’ Corn and Tomatillo Salsa” by Shannon Martin

3 ears “bodacious” corn
1/2 sweet onion (Walla Walla preferred)
2 Poblano peppers
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions
15 tomatillos
1 clove garlic
3 limes

1. Shuck and clean the corn
2. Finely dice onion
3. De-seed and finely dice peppers
4. Rinse and mince cilantro
5. Chop green onions
6. Clean tomatillos. Puree half of them, dice the other half.
7. Mince garlic
8. Zest and mince one lime
9. Extract juice of two remaining limes
10. Poach all but a few tomatillos for three minutes then puree
11. Chop remaining tomatillos
12. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix carefully with utensils
13. Salt and pepper to taste

This recipe is inspired by my first visit to Houston, Texas at Ninfa’s, the birthplace of Tex-Mex Cuisine.  This is my own personal take on their famous salsa verde.  I love the sweet corn in this salsa, it balances the tartness of the lime and tomatillos.” – Shannon Martin


Cesar's #1 on left, Bryan's #2 in the middle, Shannon's #3 on right

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